Effects Of Prolonged Emotional Abuse – Part 1


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“You are such a stupid woman.”

“Useless piece of crap, that’s what you are.”

“Worthless wife.”

“Can’t you do anything right?”

These are just some of the words women hear from their husbands, partners, or boyfriends, and yet, they silently accept it. True – words cannot create a physical wound. It can do more than that, for it harms a woman’s heart, mind, and, soul.

When mentioning abuse, the consensus would automatically equate it to physical abuse. However, there are different types of abuse. Some are not always physical. Emotional abuse can match physical abuse in gravity and often exceeds it in a lot of cases.

You may feel something is wrong but be unable to identify what it is. You may find yourself spending a great deal of time trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand where they are coming from. —  Betsy Smith, MEd, LPC-S

Signs of emotional abuse can be feelings of isolation or guilt concerning the victim, shouting, yelling, and gaslighting on the part of the abuser. If you are on the receiving end of this type of abuse, you have to understand that it isn’t you who is to blame here. You are not the one doing such hideous acts. Remember that you are poorly treated, and it is not you doing that.

Emotional abuse should be addressed in every bit as dangerous as with other forms of domestic violence. Why? This can have short term and long term harmful effects on its victims. The mental health will be affected by this.

The following are some examples, followed by advice on how to seek help.

Short Term Effects of Emotional Abuse


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No one realizes that they are under emotional abuse at the start. The immediate response would be denial or ignoring it, and it’s just our brain’s natural way of coping – to hope that we’re not wrong. Nevertheless, feelings of confusion, fear, hopelessness, and shame can be initially felt when being subjected to emotional abuse.

Physical symptoms can also manifest from the onset of emotional abuse. This can come in the form of:

  • Difficulties in concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Tensing of the muscles
  • Frequent nightmares and having trouble sleeping
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Bodily aches and pains

When I teach tools for building self-esteem, I talk a lot about how we all have a little voice in the back of our heads, feeding us messages all day long. That voice is often referred to as “self-talk” and it plays a huge role in how you feel about yourself; however, as one of my recent workshop participants pointed out, that voice may not always feel like your own. — Megan MacCutcheon, LPC

Long Term Effects Of Emotional Abuse

Being subject to prolonged emotional abuse can cause as much psychological harm as with physical violence. Low self-esteem and depression are common effects, but there are also other effects (like anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia, and social withdrawal) that can lead to more severe ailments like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia down the line.

The effects are a lot more apparent with regards to children; however, as emotional abuse can stunt or hinder early psychological development and growth. Children who are victims of emotional abuse are prone to be more withdrawn socially, repressed, or develop sleeping disorders early on. While adults that grew up under emotional abuse do not usually propagate the cycle of violence, however, they do develop toxic behaviors like:

  • Eating disorders & obesity
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and more
  • Substance and alcohol abuse


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Emotional abuse is an attempt to control, in just the same way that physical abuse is an attempt to control another person. The only difference is that the emotional abuser does not use physical hitting, kicking, pinching, grabbing, pushing, or other physical forms of harm. — Andrea Mathews LPC, NCC

Now that we know the short term and long term effects of emotional abuse, will we let ourselves become victims? Will we allow our loved ones, our sisters, our daughters, our relatives, and friends have these short term and long term effects? We will not! As women, we must stand against any abuse done to us. We will not let them do it to us!

Next week, recovering from emotional abuse will be discussed.